Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio used his position and influence in the Florida State Legislature to help Orlando Cicilia, a convicted drug dealer and brother-in-law of Rubio’s, to obtain a real-estate license.
The Washington Post recently reported that in 2002 Rubio, while majority whip of the Florida House of Representatives, sent a letter to the Florida Division of Real Estate recommending that Cicilia receive his license “without reservation.” According to the report:
“Rubio failed to mention that Cicilia, a former coke dealer, was married to his sister or was living in the same West Miami home as Rubio’s parents.
Cicilia was convicted in 1989 of dealing $15 million worth of cocaine. The money has never been found although assets, like his home, were seized. Cicilia spent 11 1/2 years in prison. Rubio refused to comment on the investigation but in an email to the Washington Post, Rubio’s campaign adviser Todd Harris said:
“Orlando made some very big mistakes almost 30 years ago, served his time, and has paid his debt to society. Today he is a private citizen, husband and father, simply trying to make a living. It is appalling and shameful that The Washington Post continues to drag him into the spotlight. Marco has recommended scores of Floridians for various professional positions and after Orlando paid his debt to society, Marco was happy to recommend him as well. He believed Orlando should be judged on his own merits and felt it would be highly inappropriate, and could be perceived as exerting undue pressure, if his letter stated that Orlando was a relative.”
Did Rubio do anything wrong by using his power and influence to go to bat for his brother-in-law? Yes, says Danielle Brian, who is the executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a government watchdog group in Washington:
“Someone who serves their time should be a productive member of society, and it’s important for families to help each other, but it’s wrong to use your public office for personal or private gain.”
Rubio also did not disclose that Cicilia was his brother-in-law to the board, an important piece of information. Brian said:
“The general rule of thumb I apply to conflicts of interest is, if you can’t eliminate them, you need to manage them by disclosing the conflict. I’m uncomfortable that he didn’t acknowledge the conflict.”
Real estate agents have unfettered access to people’s homes, making the issue of safety of utmost concern. Also, buying a home is often the biggest purchase a person will ever undertake so a real estate agent’s background is important as well. The litmus test would be whether Marco Rubio wouldn’t mind if a guy he didn’t know sold lots of drugs for a living at one point and spent years in prison but has access to his home and was going to sell it for him.
Whether Rubio’s actions are criminal are subject to more investigation. What is clear though is this was bad judgement on his part. One can only imagine the bad judgement he would make as president.
Featured image via Michael Vadon/Wikimedia Commons.